thumbnail of When disaster strikes; With best intentions
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
The first sound you hear on this program is that of an ambulance. And the next sound you hear. I don't want to go to the hospital you meet their general we're going to the hospital let's get him inside. Look I know that I'm over here there's just my back to him and nothing has been a tornado lately you know he's in a hurry about there people die and leave up a little way out there where you know that when you hire boys you'll be all you guys with and you women can't you know I'm going back with you. Well that's the sound of a new patient in a hospital full of tornado casualties a disaster victim. Not this boy know this boy is a volunteer rescue worker. Radio television the University of Texas presents when disaster strikes a series of programs designed to show how present day American news meet the crisis of
a disaster situation. All over our nation. Social scientists are seeking through special studies to find out how we as a people react to sudden widespread catastrophe. With the help of Dr. Harry Moore director of a disaster research study at the University of Texas and the Hogg foundation for mental health. We're going to share some of the things these scientists have found. When disaster strikes is produced and recorded by radio television. The University of Texas under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. In cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Today's program. With best intentions. We're going. To go. We won't hear any more from our volunteer rescue worker on this program. He's
asleep now in a hospital bed with his torn and blistered hands bandaged a sedative coursing through his bloodstream. Asleep for the second time in one day. The first time he was standing up just standing there swaying a little when a nurse at the first aid stations said young fellow what's the matter here you dizzy or asleep sound asleep on his own feet. But he needs the sleep. It's been a long day for a pint sized boy who's 18 and looks 12. More than 48 hours long lots of hours to be swinging an axe and heaving bricks and wrestling timbers and broken glass and a frantic nonstop effort to rescue people buried alive under a tornado shattered buildings. Especially when you started by pulling some other people out of a building that buried you. Regret. That is the portrayed of one volunteer in the Waco Texas tornado disaster
of 1953. A teenage boy whom the Waco Times Herald said one of the biggest bunches of heroism yet see all of whom the ambulance driver say. He may be in it. When it comes to guts and the guys being his man. It's a picture of courage selflessness unbelievable energy and in durance of a driving urge to help button help and keep on helping by all accounts an accurate portrait of that boy. Is that as true a picture of all the volunteer workers in a disaster situation. Let's ask Dr. Harry even more of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas as director of special disaster research studies. Dr. Moore has heard many first hand appraisals of civilian reactions in times of crisis. What did you find about volunteers in those appraisals Dr. Moore. Why say. By all accounts that picture is an accurate portrait of many other volunteers as those thousands of dedicated says it's who
standing where they are for themselves and they say this is in the wake of every catastrophe. Over and over again. And the report of the sassed operations we read words like these from the Federal Civil Defense administration's report of the Waco tornado volunteer workers although untrained displayed a spirit watch veteran disaster workers stated had seldom been seen elsewhere from the civil defense director's report of the tornado at San Angelo individual heroism and services beyond the call of duty became so commonplace that separate mention of credit is impossible. Now these aren't just woods. They aren't just empty phrases or empty praises. Have a disaster situations may differ and they stand specific consequences. They have one thing in common when disaster strikes and the face paralyzing shock is over. Everybody wants to help. Look almost anywhere and the media the
aftermath of the M.S. and you will find this to be true. This is the Red Cross headquarters. Yes it is. Well look I don't know if this is the right place to bring him or not but I got a car full of clean sheets out there clean sheets for shelter purpose I don't know honey bird. I heard on the radio there was a need for all clean linens for burn dresses well these are clean all right but they're not oh I just ripped my eyelid in calls a day or an every other one in the neighborhood I could get my hands on. We can all get some more sheets more sleep on the mattress if it comes to that but those poor hurt folks line in pain now there have got to have burned Grayson. Yes the people offer themselves and their goods and the pricing urge to help is apparent on every hand that a tornado devastated city. There are now those hands feel better a lot better thank you miss that you know guys that step out there sure tears of a barn does not the girls over there I'll find you some fresh dungarees close to your size anyway. Oh my God there is about the size. Just so they're dry it's the main thing and then you can stray.
For some silly I'll forget about sleep mass I couldn't sleep anyway. Think about those poor folks out there under that mask and their relatives waiting to hear might as well go on back and start digging Pharo. But you've been at it. 24 36 no longer and you've been at this mess and those other ladies do us all here hard at it when I come in the first time. Proud to be here when I come back to you I reckon. Well we're all alike. All of us down here where it happened just can't holler uncle or calf rope as long as there's some we can see in front of us that needs to be done. This is a spirit that makes itself known and in my agency period following dishonest. When the face shock is when people are shaken himself free. Unexpected catastrophe brings. They plan genda action. Action to relieve the suffering of those about action that will help those who act together find weapons for themselves on reality.
And the intense activity of this rescue period. We see the effort of the people to set their world to rights again. My sheer strength and vigor. For God's sake do something. That is a sentiment which impels them toward the task that is asked of them. And it is not irreverent in this night. There is plain and the efforts they favor a dedication to complete selflessness. That calls upon almost superhuman reserves of courage and bravery. That. Over there I've been at it like that now for two nights in a day that I know they won't stop he will stop to sleep he won't stop. Period. He's not even awake either. You heard about the tornado in San Antonio and drove all the way over here and just started thinking that is plain to a boundless generosity and goodwill. It shows itself in the giving of goods. Peanuts lady 20 cartons for the rescue squads. Why thank you. Thank you very much.
But what I don't know the truck I traveled for the company and I will be doing a traveling right now it looks like I'm making that truck into an ambulance. Lots of energy and peanut spread tomorrow. It shows itself in the giving a physical effort danger be hanged. You guys hold my ankles and lower me down. If that felt like and big got out I'm going to get him out is our way of doing something and the people almost to a man are united in their conviction that something must be done. Twelve men on my payroll and on call on every piece of equipment on the place. Just say the word and they're yours. Twenty women are here just waiting for instructions. Where do you need us and what can we do. I'll do anything to help Mr.. Just anything. This urgent desire of people to help to give on reservedly of themselves and their belongings when this ice just strikes is as spontaneous as it is
widespread. In stricken communities all over the country this dramatic generosity and. Offers of help for women from all sides surprise appear almost as if by magic. Often such quantities are as close to. Real. Barriers. You can round up 15 or 20 more people to start the Labor Party. And find another big room to store it in. Their back to be crowded out down there from headquarters. One devastated Texas town gives ample evidence of this pressing and generous impose when the tornado struck Waco on the evening of May 11th 1953. News of that city's plight was flashed over the nation and the world within a matter of hours carrying their story of tragic death. The homeless families of Roy and businesses of personal loss. The answers were immediate
and they came from many places that in many ways answers enclosed in letters sent by this list of donations before weeks in the story. Are you ready. The people of Greater Kansas City citizens of McGregor Texas rocket fuel division Phillips Petroleum Company. Fourth grade class Edison School Waterloo Iowa. National Veterans of Foreign Wars. Glass Bottle blowers Association of the United States and Canada Presbyterian daily Vacation Bible School Adamsville Texas. Dallas docs and club. Gulf Oil Corporation. The men of detachment. Five hundred fifty second engineer based Apple tago Korea. Rotary Club Winborn Minster Dorset England. Convention of the Diocese of southern Ohio of the Episcopal Church. Help came by telegram this wire service have auctioned off the first bale of cotton of the 1953 crop at the New York Stock Exchange and the Waco disaster funds getting half the proceeds.
Help came by a phone call. Hello speeding trucks and bulldozers YES Are we sure can how soon can you get them over here I think it will take about five as you say five days. While I pay well for what is right. Look mister. Excuse me but where in the world are you coming from anyway. Eugene Ark Eugene Oregon. Well let's let's back up here just a minute. It never dawned on us waiting for you to give us the green light. That's that's mighty fine of you sir it sure is but Eugene Oregon. It's well that's just too much to expect. Yeah. From the records we have of those who volunteer to save us is that money for their possessions to the stricken community. It seems that very few things were too much to expect in those face days following a tornado at Waco. Unfortunately only fragments of information about this response survived the
hectic days of emergency and rescue. No one had time or inclination to record telephone calls or to file telegrams or to list the overwhelming numbers of people and supplies which converged on this city in crisis. But the evidence left us is enough to indicate that in Waco as in other cities we do not want a volunteer as in the face now was of a dis Asda situation. They sprang up from everywhere with a flame intention of helping have and way over they can and even sometimes atmosphere. You may need any help here Chief. I'll say we do but the main thing we need help with is the help. How do you mean. Oh just look at this mob come stampede in here hundreds of thousands for all I know maybe 2 does not know what to do and how good the rest I'm standing on one foot.
Walk around it without the phone. Yes ma'am and still didn't get in the way. So the ones that do know what they're doing they can't do it. Can't work around this bunch can't work room. Can't get rid of them we're just plain hindered with mail. Yeah I see you are well the only thing I know to do is to throw a police block around this area get everybody out of here there's no you can't do that Jim Webb got men far I haven't got a man nowhere near their spread out then his wings spread I'm now doing rescue work some garden store fronts so I'm current injured or hauling supplies so I'm escorting the heavy machinery and equipment into town doing demolition work. But look here Chief. Most of those things they're not policed Let's ride. But somebody has got to do those jobs. And right now it looks like we got more jobs and we got people able to doom. More jobs than people able to do those jobs and more people than you know what to
do with. That's the dilemma that faced Waco in 1953. It's a dilemma that faces many cities at an time of this asteroid emergency. And here is a man who knows all too well from his own experience how desperate a dilemma it can be. We went to Waco and talk to Mr. Jack W. Jeffery Waco a city manager at the time of the tornado and the person in charge of personnel. And we asked him about the problem of jobs and people to do those jobs following a dis Aster. Mr. Geoffrey Fox was the situation as you saw it regarding manpower versus jobs to be done immediately following the tornado. A misnomer says you can imagine immediately filing any time for dissenters. People are curious and they rushed to the scene of the accident. That was true in our case people came from far away to get right into the big middle of the situation. Which had the.
Effect of creating more jobs to be done en. Route or an immediate need for control of people that work to be allowed in the area. Well these people that converged on Waco and the people were that were already here. Did you find them eager to pitch in and help. Yes and in many cases too eager to have but I think you can safely say everybody was eager to have more or do everything they possibly could. What do you think that they actually knew how to help. I'm sure that some of them did know how to help and probably would have been very valuable to us had they been in the right places. Then there was a problem of getting the right man in the right place for the proper job. We had no Argan ization and consequently we had I'm sure people well qualified to help us that were in the wrong parts of town trying to do the wrong job.
Did any plans exist prior to the tornado to guide you in utilizing the available volunteer help. It was unfortunate that we were in the process of changing directors of our civil defense unit. Consequently I did not have that continuity of plan an organization of people to assume certain responsibilities in time. This is. I believe the tornado struck here on Monday afternoon and by Wednesday morning you did have a meeting that led to organizing the volunteer help. Rally and we actually had our meeting on Tuesday here in the process and progress of the work that was noted through Monday night and Tuesday morning and clearly showed a need for Argan ization and getting people that were qualified to do certain jobs are doing that job rather than something you know allow that it's over that. Waco has cleaned up most of the scars of the 1953 tornado. What lessons would you say or learned that would help make such a
reconstruction job easier if it were to happen again. Well there are several lessons that we learned I don't want to insinuate by that that we're not a whole lot. Map some of them but certainly I think the need for leadership and the need for leadership to step out and assume responsibility without having to wait until an call a meeting of the board of directors to get something done. Since a tornado missed nice we have seen fit to make the civil defense director one of our only employees. There's a good reason for that in our thinking. One he has the. Knowledge of the people that have the equipment available and. France tence our present directors and airport manager. His normal. Place in our chain of command is responsible to the Director of Public Works. Consequently he would have been in time of emergency knowledge of who had
control of the bulldozers who had control the radio equipment who had control of the health unit and its facilities and fog and machines who had a responsibility for water treatment plants and things that are definitely going to be involved. And as I asked. We think there is some advantage to be gained from it. Well thank you very. That much Mr. Jeffrey. In Waco as another said is where the SAS just as have been made. And there was no lack of response on the part of the public generally. And studies indicate to the volunteers say this is a vital to this I asked operations. An impressive list could be made of the agencies and organizations which were active in Waco immediately following the tornado and whose activity was essential to the recovery of the community. And it must be noted that ordinary citizens working as volunteer as finest the manpower through which these organizations function.
We have in the studio Miss Mary Treadwell who is a federal disaster task force coordinator for the state of Texas. Mr. Treadwell you compiled a comprehensive report on the Waco tornado for civil defense. What was your overall impression of the volunteer workers in Waco. Their response was splendid. In fact it was too splendid. There was an overabundance of persons wanting to help if they are completely uncoordinated then perhaps you have a chaotic situation in your help. Yes. Can you give me a specific example of how too many volunteers got in the way. Oh yes. For example you take a particular basement where all the floors of the building have fallen in on the victims and people are trying to excavate all of this rubble. You find too many persons standing around interfering with those who are digging. And yet a few hours later when the persons doing the digging are fatigued and lose efficiency they look for help and find that the second shift has gone
home possibly thinking they're not needed. There should be a place to which these people can report and offer their services which will call them assign them a time to come to work. For example one man with a truck went to five different places looking for someone to tell him where to report. He never did find anyone to give him direction. And so when he was needed he had no way of knowing that he was needed and so he never returned to help again. Yes and of course after two or three days the volunteering dropped off people evidently were convinced the emergency was over although there was still a great deal of work to be done. Well did you notice in Waco that the military functioned more efficiently than the volunteer civilians. Yes in a way because they have a plan of action. The boys are trained to work as a team. Rescue work is actually a very delicate operation it's not just
bulldozing away the rubble but it's lifting a brick or timber off delicate lace so that the victim underneath is not further injured. Civil defense rescue teams are highly trained with each man having a specific job. Well would you say then that the type of volunteer help that is needed. Is that type that can go down and dig people out from under the rubble is that the chief need for volunteers. Oh it depends upon the operation. If it's a flood you may need people to sandbag the levees if there are many injured you need those trained in first aid and other medical skills. If a person has no skill or training he shouldn't come down and stand around at the scene of the disaster he would only get in the way. However he may be able to do something at home. For instance if it's a woman she could babysit for her neighbor who may be a trained nurse or other trained worker.
You can cook hot food for the neighbors family or possibly even take dispossessed family from the disaster area or what is your office doing now the office of a task force coordinator. We are trying when there is no disaster to help cities and counties make plans in advance so that every citizen will have an assigned place and know exactly what to do in any type of disaster and also so that each branch of city government will assume its proper directive capacity planning like this goes on throughout the United States right now. Volunteer help is needed in a disaster but it must be coordinated. Thank you very much Mr. Treadwell. It is clear that in Waco as in other cities in crisis violent help is needed. It is also plain that this amount of volunteer manpower is not without its problems that not all of those who mean well quit to do well and that the best of intentions often come
hand in hand with the poorest of preparation. Then it happens as it happened in Waco that helped tarnish is to hindrance with throngs of the well-meaning rushing in to block rescue lanes hamper emergency efforts to interfere with those who have urgent work. Mrs. Warren Mrs. Warren we've got to get these people out of the hall. How can we doctor they keep for us somebody has got to pour them back out by force if necessary. Some of the men looking for relatives of friends the rest are here to help. We can't treat we're concerned with treating the injured Mrs. Warren not the well and we can't get to the injured with all these people crowding in milling about. We don't even know where they are but if they're looking for our dog for a wife or a child they then they don't want to find him on attended or maybe even dead because he wasn't noticed in the mob. We can hardly move in here for those who need help. It's a matter of life or death for somebody to take over and
clear how those who don't. Pay with. The. Over and over again we find in the aftermath of Waco as Don I know in the wake of other disasters that many of those to save did not have the skills required for such say this revealed in a study is two part and parcel of the same volunteer manpower problems. Is the lack of organized means for utilizing the skills that do exist for making the most of those who are ready willing and able. Yes. Miss Johnson that announcement on the radio about how we take calls for volunteers. Yes I told them to make it my sale. You're getting plenty of calls. Clearly we're getting so many mail and I weary we can't begin to handle people calling on that saying they need people to do that. But we haven't got. A lot of about sort of this goes
where we're just answering the phone and the only time you need somebody else to help you with that is another girl maybe. The girls in the job to answer the phones and and lots of calls to the manse or some of these things useful to know they could be doing some good. This is a big honor for me to get through to us when we meet somebody several somebodies registrants or we need a whole staff Ms Johnson. It's going to take two weeks to get the bomb was put together. Thing with thn. This is a picture of volunteers as we found in Waco. It is a picture found in city after city where this asteroid has dropped. The problem is not a lack of people eager to offer themselves that but me and I say vs. The problem is rather to utilize effectively the efforts of those who
want to help. In the city has started. This problem is not men solving with entire satisfaction. The result is that many people skilled and unskilled have felt that they were not allowed to make the contributions they were ready and anxious to make. They have felt that their contributions and their accomplishments are falling short of. Going. Even though when this s just drop they can follow it immediately with the best intentions. Of thinking that thing is. When Disaster Strikes radio television the University of Texas has brought you the fifth in the series of programs designed to show how modern Americans react to the crisis of a disaster situation.
Today's program with best intentions was prepared with the cooperation of Dr. Harry even more of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas and the Hogg foundation for mental health. We are indebted to the division of defense and disaster relief of the governor's office the state of Texas for material from its files. And a Dr. Harry B Williams technical director Disaster Research Group National Academy of Sciences Gneisenau Research Council for advice and assistance. When disaster strikes as directed by R. S. Nies from scripts by the Durham twins under the supervision of Robert F. Fink. Special Music is supervised by Elena page who composed the original score. Your narrator is Jimmy Morris cactus Pryor speaking. With best intentions was produced and recorded by radio television at the University of Texas under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of education for. The
egg. Nog. This is Emma E.B. Radio Network. And.
When disaster strikes
With best intentions
Producing Organization
University of Texas
KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-901zhn11).
Episode Description
The compelling urge to help. Willing workers as hindrances to vital work. Important aspects of volunteer goods and services.
Series Description
This series focuses on disaster preparation, as well as the effects wrought by disaster.
Broadcast Date
Public Affairs
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Advisor: Williams, Harry B.
Composer: Page, Frances Eleanor
Director: Norris, R. C.
Narrator: Morriss, Jimmy
Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Speaker: Moore, Harry E.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-15-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:14
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “When disaster strikes; With best intentions,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “When disaster strikes; With best intentions.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: When disaster strikes; With best intentions. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from